Want to pass along your love for fishing to a child? Here are 10 top tips that will help ignite the passion.
Fishing is one of life's great pastimes that just seems to make everything in the world feel right. It is about forging a deeper connection with nature, about enjoying some alone time or camaraderie with friends, and most importantly, about on-the-water grins and pure unbridled excitement a bend in the rod can provide.
In an age where technology runs rampant and cell phones and video games rule the roost, it's never been a more important time to get a child hooked on fishing. Here are ten kid-winning tips to get you started.
1. Downsize gear
A child will struggle considerably with your 7-foot spinning combo. Downsize rods and reels to cater to the smaller hands and limited upper body strength kids will have. A child's spincast rod and reel makes a great combo as does an ice fishing rod and ultralight reel.
2. Start small
In order to get a child hooked, targeting those 'easy-to-catch' panfish is your best bet. Bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and perch are always willing biters, and to a child starting out, it's not about the size of the fish but the pull of the rod.
Keep gear simple. A float, hook, and worm will never disappoint. Same goes for a float, micro jighead, and mini plastic curly tail or tube jig. And it is always a good practice to keep hooks barbless. This will make removal from fish quick and easy - and also if one happens to find skin.
3. Keep your rod at home
It's recommended, at least for the first handful of times, to keep your own rod at home. Children will need your undivided attention when just starting out, and that is hard to do while you are casting from the front deck. Once a child becomes accustomed to casting, setting the hook, and reeling in, you can then make it a true fishing duo.
4. Fishing is a teachable moment
Fishing is not only about getting a line wet. It is about teaching children about the great outdoors and the nature that surrounds them. Make your trips to the lake teachable moments.
Point out the osprey flying overhead, the loon swimming in the shallows, and the dragonflies buzzing excitedly to and fro. Dazzle them with interesting and entertaining facts. The outdoors is the best kind of classroom - and children will soak up what they see like a sponge.
5. Keep it fun
A child's attention span is unlike ours. They can get bored easily, frustrated, or simply cranky. Let them dictate what they would like to do. A swim in the water, a run on the shore, or sandcastles on the beach can break up the day perfectly. Playing with worms on the boat - or their favorite stuffed animal - is also perfectly fine. Same goes for a boat ride.
Don't expect a long day in the boat or on the shoreline to happen. It's just not feasible with a child. A couple of hours is perfect - and will help ignite that passion.
6. Play safe
A properly fitted and regulation lifejacket should be worn by your little fishing partner at all times. Accidents can happen. Ensure that your youngster will be safe.
7. Snack time
A child's metabolism is much higher than ours. Ensure you pack a cooler with all sorts of goodies and treats to keep them well fed - and hydrated - while out on the water. There's nothing worse than a hungry child - especially one in the small confines of a boat.
8. Document the day
Take plenty of snapshots throughout the course of your outing. Not only will these be forever-loved memories for yourself, but also wonderful tokens to relive that special day along with your child. Children are proud of their accomplishments. And that first, or biggest fish, will be one they can proudly brag about.
9. Keep a few for the pan
Catch and release is an important aspect of angling, but there's nothing wrong with occasionally keeping a few small panfish or bass for the pan. Yes, children undoubtedly think all food comes from a grocery store, so use this opportunity to teach them where food actually is derived from (if they are of an age to understand.)
Letting your child help out in the kitchen at the end of the day - and dig in to a nutritious feed of fish - will definitely whet their appetite for the next outing.
10. End on a sweet note
There's nothing better after a day of fishing than a yummy ice cream cone. Treat your little tyke to a sweet treat on the car ride home. It's guaranteed to put a smile on both of your faces.
Take a child fishing this season and get them hooked for life. I can't think of a better fishing partner out on the boat.
Photos: Justin Hoffman